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Spisska Sobota is the most interesting and historically most picturesque part of Poprad, today's administrative and business center of the region under High Tatra mountains. Refereed to as Forum Sabbathe (Saturday's Market) and later on as Sanctus Georgius, the town was first mentioned in 1256. Spisska Sobota is a small town founded on a northern Slovakian trade route called Via Magna leading from Zilina in the West to Levoca in the East. This road also connected the Hungarian Empire with Poland.

It evolved from a pre-existing Slavic settlement, which is suggested by the central plan of the main square from which a road leads to the East.

Not much is known and has been discovered about the earliest settlements of the town, but if someone considers the preserved types of the folk architecture in the surrounding towns and villages, that are really the prototype of the first city buildings, the first dwellings were made of wood. Medieval cores are from the later period 14th-15th century. The older used to be standing on the parcels in form of one space bungalows with entrances from the rear part. Originally the town wasn't fortified, only the entrances were protected by town gates. The absence of the fortification was substituted by the walls of buildings on the town circumference.

In 15th century houses were oriented with the main wall to the town square, the entrance to the court-yard was by side passage or gangway. Characteristic for Spisska Sobota was enclosure of the parcel by farmers' buildings that were changed when needed to serve as defense walls and together with other neighboring buildings replaced the missing fortification walls.

Economic boom of Spisska Sobota was influenced by the fact that it was pledged together with another 12 Spis towns to Polish King Vladislav II Jagellon for money borrowed in war against crusaders and Turks by the Hungarian King and Roman Emperor Zigmund. All 13 towns remained as a part of Hungarian Empire but the new Polish rulers issued to them different privileges that were helpful in their development and artistic activities that the town became above the average between important artistic and historical localities.

The most important proof of this fact is the Roman Catholic Church of St. Jacob. The formerly Romanesque church amidst the square was rebuilt in Gothic style in 1464 and enlarged later in years 1502-1514. Now it houses a small museum with few Gothic altars. The main altar dating from 1516 with St. George on the horse killing a dragon  was made by Master Pavol from Levoca. In the lower part of the altar is a scene of the last supper. Another noteworthy and valuable Gothic works include the altar of St. Anthony dating from 1503. The statute of St. Anthony was produced by Master Pavol from Levoca, from the legend of St. Anthony, in Spisska Kapitula. The open wings of the altar box are adorned with paintings showing scenes from the saint's life, whereas the closed wings show the teasing of St. Anthony, painted by an unknown medieval artist. In addition to the Gothic altars the church contains an attractive Calvary, typical to many churches in the Spis region, placed on a triumphant arch. In addition to the gothic altars the church also contains works of the Baroque period such as organ, pulpit, senator's pews and epitaphs.

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In 1547 the town received another privilege to hold two farmers fairs alongside with weekly markets. The thriving town soon built city hall and year later town's central water supply. Prior to end of century in 1598 the town square was filled with an inevitable dominant of the Spis's towns- representative renaissance belfry. At the beginning of 17th century the town's folks in fears of the participants in the Betlenov's uprising decided to build fortifications around the town. They also built four gates on major roads. Before the middle of the 17th century they also built a cleaning spa and a poorhouse, close to town.

The economic boom of he town has slowly ended and a slowdown in the building activity has begun. In 18th century the destiny of almost all Spis's towns profiting from the movement of goods on the major north-south routes didn't miss Spisska Sobota. Shifting interest of world trade towards west and behind the ocean resulted in decline of these important towns. The building activities were limited to rebuilding towns after fires. In 1772 Spisska Sobota together with the other 12 towns were returned back to Hungary. Remembrance of this important date is a Marian column from 1772 at the town square. In the last third of the 18th century a Protestant church was built on the town square without a belfry according to the requirements. The earthquake in 1813 caused only minimal damage. At the end of the 19th century they converted the town square that used to be used for fairs and markets to park. The decline of the town was finalized by the building of the railway in 1871, that went around Spisska Sobota. Thanks to the fact that after 1945 the town became part of Poprad, it was able to keep the original shape and thanks to its proximity to near-by High Tatra mountains is much sought after destination of many visitors. Since 1950, Spisska Sobota is Town's historic reservation.


Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 3, No. 2, Summer 1995
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 1995 
3804 Yale Street, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5C 1P6
The above article and photographs may not be copied, reproduced, republished, or redistributed by any means including electronic, without the express written permission of Vladimir Linder. All rights reserved.